Italy made the perfect start to their World Cup campaign, beating Group D rivals England 2-1 in Manaus on Saturday, reports Goal.com.
Labelled as the 'rumble in jungle' heading into the match, Italy continued their domination over England thanks to goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli at the Arena Amazonia.
Daniel Sturridge had England on level terms at half-time, after cancelling out Marchisio's 35th-minute opener within two minutes.
But Balotelli repaid the faith shown in him by coach Cesare Prandelli, popping up to head home the winner five minutes after the break as England were left with just two wins in their past 12 international meetings against Italy.
The Azzurri are back in action against Costa Rica on Friday, while England face Uruguay a day earlier.
Roy Hodgson made just one change from the team that stuttered to a goalless draw against Honduras in their final warm-up match, with Raheem Sterling free from suspension to replace Adam Lallana in midfield.
It was a different story for Italy, who were forced into two changes.
Captain Gianluigi Buffon failed to overcome an ankle strain and was replaced by Salvatore Sirigu in goal, while full-back Mattia De Sciglio also dropped out through injury and Matteo Darmian took his place in the starting XI.
Up front, Prandelli decided to stick with wayward striker Balotelli, despite Ciro Immobile's hat-trick display against Brazilian club Fluminense midweek.
Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli (ITA)
As it happened
FULL TIME! Italy beat England 2-1 in Manaus, as a Balotelli header was enough to win the game for the Azzurri. The other goals came from Marchisio and Sturridge, as Prandelli's men controlled most of the first half and remaining well-drilled in the second to close out the contest.
90` + 5` Brilliant tackle from Cahill, as the central defender was left totally exposed at the back. He slides in expertly to dispossess Immobile. That should be the last chance of the game.
90` + 4` PIRLO STRIKES THE BAR! An outrageous free-kick effort from Pirlo, who sends Hart the wrong way completely! The dip and swerve on the veteran's free-kick leaves the England goalkeeper very relieved to see the ball cannon off the crossbar.
90` + 3` Yellow Card Raheem Sterling
90` + 3` Cahill now brings down Motta, as Italy win another free-kick deep in England's half. This is a welcome break for Prandelli's men, who aren't committing many players forward, leaving merely three blue shirts to jostle in the opposition penalty area.
90` Sterling beats Pirlo with a turn of pace, before firing the ball high into the stands. He's undoubtedly been bright, but hasn't found his cutting edge tonight. Given that it is his debut, however, there are plenty of positive points. There are five minutes of stoppage time.
89` Sterling goes on another mazy dribble, before trying to steer a left-footed effort inside the far post. Chiellini is forced into another rushed clearance, as Azzurri try and hold out for the last few minutes. England win a corner, but Rooney is unable to turn his header goalwards.
87` The home crowd are getting behind Italy, cheering every pass completed by Azzurri. England are looking fairly tired, unable to change the direction of play quickly enough. Rooney steals the ball off the toe of Barkley, before firing a left-footed effort over the crossbar - the substitute looks on despairingly, he could have fed Sterling in down the right without Rooney's intervention.
85` Gerrard sends a curling effort narrowly over the crossbar, with Sirigu worried. Not quite the dip required for the Italian goalkeeper to be called into action, with time beginning to run out for Hodgson's men. Italy are looking well-organised and comfortable.
84` Lallana is fed possession by Baines on the edge of the penalty area, before turning smartly and beating De Rossi. The Roma midfielder is forced to drag his man to the ground, gifting England a free-kick from 20 yards out.
83` Italy appear to be shutting up shop and only foraying forward when England make big mistakes, as Prandelli's men understand the magnitude of three points. Sterling now takes his turn to deliver an awful cross from the right, with the playing surface perhaps coming under scrutiny.
81` Johnson breaks down the right flank, overlapping Sterling, but can't find a telling delivery towards a loaded box. It heads directly out of play for a goal-kick, with the defender putting up an apologetic hand. Less than ten minutes of normal time remain for England to find an equaliser.
80` Substitution: Daniel Sturridge out, Adam Lallana in
79` Substitution: Antonio Candreva out, Marco Parolo in
79` England are seeing plenty of possession, but Prandelli's men are more than content to sit in their shape and force errors. Several crossfield balls have gone astray for Hodgson's men. Candreva takes his leave, being replaced by the more conservative option of Aquilani - while a limping Sturridge makes his way off for Lallana.
77` GREAT SAVE FROM SIRIGU! Baines gets his free-kick effort up and over the wall, but the Italian shot-stopper is at full stretch to make yet another save. Buffon's absence really hasn't been felt in terms of ability, the PSG goalkeeper has been excellent.
75` England aren't in a hurry despite there only being a quarter of an hour left, as Italy hold their shape brilliantly and invite pressure on. Sturridge is felled by a rather over-eager challenge from behind from Chiellini, earning the Three Lions a free-kick in a dangerous area.
74` Two changes, as the tireless Immobile is thrown into the fray for Italy, while Wilshere replaces Henderson in midfield for England. The former has been in fantastic goalscoring form this season, also picking up several goals and assists in the Azzurri's last warm-up game versus Fluminense.
73` Substitution: Jordan Henderson out, Jack Wilshere in
73` Substitution: Mario Balotelli out, Ciro Immobile in
72` GOOD EFFORT FROM JOHNSON! The right-back finds himself in space 25 yards out from goal, before arrowing a left-footed effort narrowly wide of the bottom corner! Sirigu was rooted to his spot, the PSG goalkeeper didn't appear sure of which side of the post that was heading!
71` Sterling is nearly slipped in behind Italy's lines, but Chiellini covers across well to clear the danger. Immobile and Wilshere prepare to come on for both sides, as both coaches try to keep things fresh.
70` Around 20 minutes left to play, with Italy happy to retain the ball and use their width to ensure that England's tired legs are forced into more action. Barkley is taking up the number ten role, while Rooney is back out on the left hand side.
68` Candreva tries a cheeky driven effort towards Hart's near post, hoping to catch the England goalkeeper offguard. The ball whistles past the sidenetting, as Italy's right flank continues to be the source of all woe for Hodgson's men.
67` Great play from Sterling! The youngster weaves beyond Marchisio and Chiellini, before playing a cross along the six yard box from the byeline. Paletta keeps his eye on the ball to clear behind for a corner. Sirigu claims the delivery.
65` Sterling goes down with a touch of cramp, as the youngster shows the first signs of the rigours of the game affecting those on the pitch. England are looking threatening on the break, though Italy aren't making things easy. Sirigu has been solid in Buffon's absence.
64` De Rossi clips a beautiful ball over the top for Darmian to chase, with the Torino defender bringing the ball down expertly! Jagielka makes the tackle and clears, allowing for England to break! Barkley is fed down the left hand side, cutting in and forcing Sirigu into low save at his far post!
62` WHAT A MISS FROM ROONEY! Baines slips an intelligent ball through to the England forward, who just about manages to stay onside. He cuts infield onto his stronger right foot, but drags his eventual drive wide of the near post from ten yards! That should have been the equaliser!
61` Substitution: Danny Welbeck out, Ross Barkley in
61` Sturridge curls a left-footed strike towards the top right hand corner rather optimistically from 25 yards, but his effort is always heading wide. Barkley finally takes to the field for England, replacing the hard-working Welbeck.
60` At the hour mark, Italy are looking to be in control of this game, despite periods of pressure fluctuating between the two sides. Candreva delivers yet another teasing cross from the right hand side, but Hart claims just ahead of the lurking Balotelli.
59` Darmian is nearly found down the right hand side by a searching crossfield ball, but Baines recovers well to defuse the situation. Sterling does well to burst past Candreva and deliver an early cross into Sturridge, but his domestic teammate's first touch lets him down.
57` Substitution: Marco Verratti out, Thiago Motta in
57` The first substitution of the game is made by Italy, with Thiago Motta replacing Verratti. The experienced midfielder offers reliability, where his PSG teammate is perhaps a little more risky with his distribution and how long he holds onto the ball. A smart move from Prandelli, while Barkley warms up for England.
56` Wonderful move from England! Rooney spreads play to Gerrard, who plays a one-two with Sturridge and makes his way into the penalty area. The midfielder is perhaps barged to the ground by Paletta, but is unable to poke an effort on target from a tight angle. A few gaps opening up for the Three Lions.
55` Great ball in from Glen Johnson! The right-back finds himself bombing on once again, before delivering a devilish ball into the six yard box. Sturridge and Welbeck fail to get there, with De Rossi able to hoof clear! England are putting on some pressure now.
54` Rooney drives away from De Rossi, getting a yard to attempt a long-range shot, but drags wide from 20 yards! Sirigu dives, but the eventual effort ends up skipping fairly wide of the target. No risks being taken.
53` Darmian manages to play a good ball in behind the lines for Balotelli, but the game's most recent goalscorer is forced back towards his own goal. England haven't responded negatively, with Hodgson's bright offensive options continuing to look threatening on the break.
51` Fantastic run from Daniel Sturridge! The goalscorer pulls off a dummy, before racing beyond two Italian defenders and into the penalty area! He overruns possession slightly, allowing for Chiellini to make an important clearance - nearly an immediate response from England!
50` Assist Antonio Candreva
50` Goal Mario Balotelli
50` GOOOOOOOOOAL! BALOTELLI HEADS HOME AT THE BACK POST TO MAKE IT 2-1! Candreva breaks down the right hand side, selling Baines an excellent dummy to cut inside, before telegraphing a cross onto the head of the lone striker! Balotelli heads beyond the flailing Hart from a tight angle!
49` GREAT EFFORT FROM STURRIDGE! England's number nine shows a turn of pace to get beyond De Rossi, before firing a left-footed effort towards the near post! Sirigu gets down well to palm the ball behind for a corner! The resulting dead ball situation results in the delivery going directly out of play for a goal kick.
47` No substitutions at the break, as expected. Welbeck moves out to the left hand side for England, while Rooney slots in on the right, with his Man United teammate clearly trusted to do more defensive running as the game progresses.
46` We're back underway in the second half! The first half was not exactly free-flowing, but there are plenty of capable substitutes on both respective benches to exploit the inevitable fatigue as a result of this climate. Italy will be happy to control the game, while England have had joy on the break.
The combination of Candreva and Darmian down the right hand side is causing all kinds of issues for England, with Rooney struggling to work back defensively. Pirlo and Verratti have looked tidy in midfield, while the pacey trio of Sturridge, Sterling and Welbeck lead the charge for the Three Lions.
HALF TIME! The two sides head in level after an entertaining first half, with Sturridge managing to cancel out Marchisio's opening strike. Italy have had plenty of the ball, but the Three Lions have had several brilliant opportunities to put the Azzurri to the sword.
45` + 3` CANDREVA STRIKES THE POST! The Lazio man receives the ball in plenty of space of the back post, before shifting possession onto his right foot. He fires a powerful attempt towards the near post, but Hart is fortunate enough to see the ball cannon off the upright!
45` + 2` OFF THE LINE BY JAGIELKA! Balotelli gets in behind the England defence, before turning smartly and trying to clip a cheeky chip over the stranded goalkeeper and into the back of the net! Jagielka recovers brilliantly to head the shot off the line!
45` We're going to have two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half, with Gerrard failing to pick out a couple of ambitious crossfield balls.
· 43` A few minutes until the break, with England's fans finding their voice. Italy have settled back down, however, controlling the game and forcing Hart into claiming plenty of crosses. Prandelli may well be frustrated by his side's lack of penetration, but his eleven are the more dominant.
41` Italy continue to try and force the issue down the right hand side, with Rooney having to do far more defensive work than he is accustomed to. Hodgson might need to make a pro-active change at half-time, as the presence of Candreva and Darmian is the source of most of England's issues.
39` Italy are pegged back straight away, but England's current concern is with their bench. It appears that their physio sustained a rather bad injury during the goal celebrations, possibly breaking his ankle in the process. Play continues regardless, with the injured party quickly stretchered away.
37` Goal Daniel Sturridge
37` Assist Wayne Rooney
37` GOOOOOOOOAL! ENGLAND LEVEL THE SCORE THROUGH STURRIDGE! Rooney breaks down the left hand side, before picking out Sturridge at the back post with a wonderful cross! The Liverpool striker steams in, blasting the ball past the helpless Sirigu!
35` Assist Marco Verratti
35`Goal Claudio Marchisio
35` GOOOOOOAL! MARCHISIO OPENS THE SCORING FOR ITALY! A corner is cut back to Pirlo on the edge of the box, who dummies the ball, allowing for Marchisio to gain possession. The Juve midfielder fires a low drive beyond Hart, which skips through plenty of legs, to give the Azzurri the lead!
33` BIG CHANCE FOR BALOTELLI! De Rossi clips a wonderful diagonal ball in behind Baines for Darmian to chase, with the Torino full-back squaring back a cushioned first-time pass into the path of Balotelli. The former Man City striker manages to make contact with the delivery, but can't turn his header beyond Hart!
32` Balotelli is nearly found deep in the England penalty area by an early through ball, but Jagielka and Cahill combine well to pressure the lone striker. Rooney is unhappy with a tackle by De Rossi, with the resulting free-kick heading straight through to Sirigu from the boot of Gerrard.
31` Around 15 minutes left until the interval, with both sides keen to find the breakthrough goal. Plenty of hard running is behind put in by all involved, though England are doing more of it without the ball. Prandelli's combination of Verratti and Pirlo is leading to tidy possession for Azzurri, but they can't penetrate.
29` Balotelli tries to play an intelligent through ball around the corner for Marchisio to chase, but Johnson covers in behind the English defence well to shepherd the pass back to Hart. As we approach the half hour mark, neither side have been torn apart as of yet, with Candreva and possibly Sterling chief tormentors.
28` Candreva cuts in from the right yet again, but the Lazio man drags his effort wide of the target once more. Rooney is struggling to keep tabs on his man, causing a bit of confusion among the English lines.
27` Prandelli is looking animated on the edge of his technical area, as Italy look to use their width to deliver telling crosses. Balotelli hasn't received great service thus far, with Marchisio and Candreva failing to make the ball stick in central advanced areas.
25` Baines whips in the second corner, but Sirigu is out early to claim. He fumbles, but falls upon the spilled ball, making the crowd take a collective breath. Plenty of openings for both teams to exploit, there's a real ebb and flow about this contest.
24` BIG CHANCE FOR ENGLAND! Welbeck breaks down the right flank, before attempting to clip a cross to the back post to Sturridge! Barzagli makes a fantastic clearance to put the dangerous delivery behind for a corner! Gerrard whips in the dead ball, which is scrambled clear hastily by Sirigu for another set piece.
23` Italy have a go from range once again, with Balotelli mustering up his first effort of the evening. The Milan striker arrows a powerful attempt towards the top right hand corner from 30 yards, but it soars high and wide.
22` GREAT BALL FROM STERLING! Gerrard plays a beautiful crossfield ball to pick out Sterling on the left hand side, allowing for the debutant to break to the byeline and drill in a cross. Sturridge tries to get on the end of it, but Paletta stays strong to impede the galloping England striker.
21` Sterling tries to do a little bit too much and is dispossessed by De Rossi, allowing for Italy to break upfield. Candreva delivers early from the right flank, searching for Balotelli, but Jagielka reads the danger well to nod the ball back into Hart's grasp.
19` GREAT STRIKE FROM CANDREVA! Italy are keeping much more of the ball, given their talented midfield trio, which is being given great width from Darmian and Chiellini. Candreva tries his luck audaciously from 30 yards, with the Lazio winger's swerving effort nearly wrongfooting Hart! The England shot-stopper gets enough behind the ball to keep it out.
17` Darmian cuts a pass back to the edge of the box for Candreva to sweep towards the back post, but Hart is again eager to claim. Balotelli has been the only constant presence in the English 18-yard area, with Hodgson's men able to deal with the fiery frontman so far.
16` Johnson cuts inside Chiellini, before trying his luck on his left foot, but Sirigu is happy to let the ball head behind for a goal kick. An even contest so far, though the neutral supporters in the stadium are hoping for less measured and more gung-ho football.
15` The first quarter of an hour has passed without much in the way of chances, but Italy will be the happier of the two sides. Pirlo has been able to dictate play somewhat, with the Azzurri often camped deep in the English half. Hodgson's men appear happy to concede the ground, given their gameplan.
13` Italy are making their adversaries do the early chasing, with Chiellini and Darmian marauding down either flank. Candreva delivers from the right hand side, but Hart reads the cross and claims it under no pressure from Balotelli. England are happy to counter. Sturridge streaks down the right flank, beating Paletta, but Sirigu is able to gobble up the loose ball.
11` Welbeck picks up a loose ball due to a poor pass from Paletta, with his first touch sitting up nicely. The Manchester United forward tries a half volley from 25 yards, but sends the ball zipping past the upright and into the advertising hoardings.
10` Ten minutes have passed, with Sirigu the busier of the two goalkeepers. The Azzurri are settling into their groove, however, retaining more of the ball and looking for positive runs from Balotelli and Marchisio. Sturridge and Rooney have been quiet for the Three Lions thus far.
9` A few half chances for Italy, with England's defence becoming a little bit bogged down. Chiellini drags a close-range shot wide of the target, while Darmian enjoys some space down the right flank. Baines needs Rooney to pull his weight defensively, but it appears the left-back might be left mostly exposed.
8` Italy work the ball well from side to side, but England hold their shape well. Marchisio is nearly picked out with a lofted through ball, but Cahill gets up well to make an important defensive header. Pirlo wants a penalty after scooping the ball into Johnson's arm from close-range, but the Liverpool man couldn't have kept them any closer to his body! Probably the right decision.
7` Italy are making a few uncharacteristic errors in the opening ten minutes, but Prandelli's men stick to task, trying to circulate possession. England's game plan is clear from the off, to try and look for quick transitions with their explosive offensive options.
5` SIRIGU MAKES THE SAVE! A few powerful challenges flying in early on from England, with Hodgson's men keep on pressing the Italian defence and forcing mistakes. Henderson picks up possession at the edge of the box, trying his luck first time, but the PSG goalkeeper gets down well to get a strong hand to the ball!
4` GOOD EFFORT FROM STERLING! The debutant tries his luck from 30 yards, rocketing a long-range strike into the side netting! Half of the crowd thought that it went in! Sirigu probably had his angles covered, but that's positive stuff from the England forward.
3` Pirlo receives plenty of the ball early on, with England conscious of closing down the Juventus midfielder. Darmian breaks down the right, delivering from deep, but Jagielka is present at the front post to make the clearance.
2` England attempt to keep the ball in the opening stages, much to the displeasure of the crowd. Pirlo tries a couple of early lofted through balls to Balotelli and Darmian, but neither reach their intended target - one rolls out of play with the other dealt with easily by Cahill.
1`We are underway in the first half! Both nations are donning their customary and famous colours, England in white, Italy in blue. Our referee for the evening is Bjorn Kuipers.
The teams take to the field, with plenty of expectation riding on this one! We've seen plenty of goals in the opening matches of this tournament, but given the heat this might be a slightly more low tempo affair. What cannot be ignored, however, is the presence of real quality in offensive areas for both outfits.
Commentary & Report: Goal dot com